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Sotheby's Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings Autumn Sale to be Held on October 6
Lee Man Fong’s Magnificent Horses Est. HK$1.5-2.5 million. Photo: Sotheby's.

HONG KONG.- Sotheby’s Hong Kong will hold its Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Paintings Autumn Sale 2009 on 6th October at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, offering approximately 130 exceptional works with a total estimate in excess of HK$23 million.

Mok Kim Chuan, Sotheby’s Head of Southeast Asian Paintings said, “This season, Sotheby’s will present an impressive selection of splendid works by established Modern masters, highlighted by Lee Man Fong’s Magnificent Horses and Affandi’s Self Portrait, Eating Watermelon. On the contemporary front, we will present exhilarating works by a number of young, up-and-coming artists who display exceptional creativity and potential in their work. Through its diversity and breadth, this season’s sale is curated to widen the perspectives of avid art collectors and connoisseurs, and provide them with a unique opportunity to acquire works that we have thoughtfully selected.”

Leading the Modern session of this season’s sale is Magnificent Horses, a masterpiece by Indonesian artist Lee Man Fong (1913–1988) (Est. HK$1.5-2.5 million). Imbued with poetic elegance and vividness, it is one of the largest and most important works by Lee ever to appear at auction. It is also the largest horse picture created by the artist, and is amongst the last few major works that Lee completed before his migration from Indonesia to Singapore in 1967, making this important work a true rarity.

Magnificent Horses depicts one of Lee’s beloved subjects and perfectly exemplifies the maestro’s mastery of this medium. Seven magnificent horses are depicted on a misty hill top, overlooking monumental mountains that seem dwarfed in the distance. The eyes of the viewer are drawn to the foreground where a regal brown stallion is immortalised in beauty. His head is held up high, the wind blowing his mane, radiating a sense of pride and majesty, whilst his companion elegantly grazes on the grass nearby.

Also under spotlight is Indonesian master Affandi’s (1907-1990) Self Portrait, Eating Watermelon (Est. HK$600,000-800,000). Affandi’s works are often bursting with emotions. His method of applying paint onto the canvas by squeezing paint directly out of the tube and discarding brushes is novel, distinctive and filled with passion. On offer this season is his important work Self Portrait, Eating Watermelons that unequivocally embodies such traits. Executed in 1969, it depicts and captures a vivacious moment of Affandi eating watermelons through powerful brushstrokes in rich primary tones of blue, red and yellow. The vibrant, swirling and seemingly moving impastos echo the delight and gusto with which he consumes one of his favourite fruits. It is one of the best examples of Affandi’s mastery as an Expressionist, in which his hunger and eagerness depicted resonates with his own intense fervour for art, and ultimately celebrates his joie de vivre.

Another excellent Affandi oeuvre on offer is Nude (est. HK$600,000-800,000), which depicts one of the artist’s favourite themes. The current work, executed in 1973, portrays a woman reclining in sexual ecstasy. The female form is made out with loosely applied curvaceous lines, which in turn are surrounded by chaotic, evocative brushstrokes, creating a dynamic interplay between shadow and light. A sun-hands-feet symbol on the lower left was painted by the artist to demonstrate his satisfaction with his creation.

Two Women on the Beach, Tahiti by Belgian artist Adrien Jean Le Mayeur de Merprès (1880-1958) (Est. HK$1.4-2 million) is one of the superb creations by the artist during the his visit to Tahiti between 1929 and 1930. The work depicts two women wrapped in their bright pink sarongs beneath a coconut tree by the sea. One is seated on the ground while the other kneels beside her. Their backs and luxuriant tresses catch the warm radiance of the afternoon sun, while their bronze skin glows with the varied hues of the dappled light under the shade. Le Mayeur’s obsession with sunlight is seldom stated with such clarity and passion as in this work, celebrating light in an expressive way.

Indonesian artist Hendra Gunawan’s (1918-1983) works from the 1950s are emblematic of his early recognition as the ‘people’s painter’ of Indonesia. Depicting scenes of daily life, Hendra’s subjects in this period were imbued with a sense of idealism, exhibiting less of the suffering and disillusionment that were later illustrated in his works from the 1970s. Rujak Seller (Est. HK$700,000-900,000), created in 1957, is iconic as it successfully represents the short period in Hendra’s career that was filled with hope and joy. It depicts the flirtatious interactions between a Rujak seller and her admirer. The narrative is found in the subtle details: the sensual and voluptuous figure, the gentle sway of her hips, and the sideways glances.

Indonesian artist I Nyoman Masriadi (b.1973) is one of the most eminent contemporary Southeast Asian artists of his generation. His works often offer insights into certain traits of human nature, such as ambition, persistence and originality. The Man from Bantul "The Monster" (Est. HK$600,000-900,000) is an excellent example.

Boxing is one of Masriadi’s most pervasive and personal themes. The fighting spirit fascinates him as he draws similarities with it to his own devotion to his art. Executed in 2000 and around the same time as his record-setting The Man From Bantul (The Final Round) that broke the US$1 million mark (over HK$7.8 million) at Sotheby’s Hong Kong Autumn 2008 sale, The Man from Bantul "The Monster" features his signature muscular figures in a boxing ring, narrating a tale of tragedy and comedy between winners and losers. A work of fine wit and supreme quality, it also stands out for the artist’s courage to push limitations and to create his own distinctive artistic language.

Indonesian artist Rudi Mantofani’s (b. 1973) series of works which depict ordinary objects from daily life positioned against idealised and pseudo-realistic green pastures, with the aim of leading viewers to delve into various social issues, have won him the most plaudits thus far. Sofa Bata (Brick Sofa) (Est. HK$260,000-320,000; on offer is an example of exceptional quality. By placing a sofa made of bricks against a natural background, the artist provokes viewers to examine and reflect on the problems in our environment and the ecosystem.

Thai artist Natee Utarit’s (b. 1970) works often offer a metaphorical representation of his opinion on his country’s social development, politics and history. Micro History of Politic No. 4- Lost (Est. HK$200,000-300,000), inspired by English author George Orwell’s satirical novel Animal Farm, depicts in a quasi-photorealist style an array of kitschy animals that appear to be marching or waiting. It suggests the artist’s concern on how the majority of citizens – symbolised by the animals – are led, directed and affected by political trends.

A further highlight on offer is by Filipino artist Ronald Ventura (b. 1973). For Ventura, dreaming is a time when we hover and alternate between hyper-reality and animated fantasy. This theme is strongly exhibited in the current work Framed (Est. HK$120,000-180,000) where a sleeping boy is surrounded and framed by comical creatures, both fascinating and disturbing, that mirror and contradict one another. As such creatures seem to grow in number, viewers are driven to wonder if they will ultimately blanket the entire canvas. On the other hand, the sleeping boy symbolises innocence, peace and fragility. The juxtaposition suggests a tension between innocence of human soul, and many kinds of unconscious desires or thoughts of the mind.

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